March 27, 2012

Hymn History: He Lives!

Alfred H. Ackley was born on January 21, 1887. His father, a Methodist preacher and musically gifted man, gave Alfred his foundation in music at an early age. Alfred went on to study harmony and composition in New York and London. His specialty was cello. Over time, he felt a call to preach and pastored for many years, but never stopped writing music and hymns.

One particular morning, Easter Sunday in 1932, Rev. Ackley was preparing for his services of the day. As he was shaving, he tuned in to the radio in time to hear a special Easter broadcast.

“Good morning!” The well-known liberal preacher began. “It’s Easter! You know folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned His body could be as dust in some Palestinian tomb. The man thing is, His truth goes marching on!”

Rev. Ackley was furious. “It’s a lie!” he shouted at the radio set, forgetting that the speaker could not hear him.

Mrs. Ackley did hear him, however, and questioned, “Why are you shouting so early in the morning?”

“Didn’t you hear what that good-for-nothing preacher said?” he replied. “He said it didn’t matter whether Christ be risen or not!”

Rev. Ackley knew that the truth of the resurrection DID matter, as evidenced by a conversation he had had with a young Jewish man just a few weeks prior. “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” the young man asked; to which Rev. Ackley had replied, “That’s the whole point. He isn’t dead; He’s alive!”

Rev. Ackley, in telling the story later, said that he preached that Easter Sunday quite differently than he had ever preached before, but at the end of the day, still felt that he had not yet said everything he wanted to say!

His wife sized up the situation and said, “Listen here, Alfred Ackley, it’s time you did that which you can do best. Why don’t you write a song about it and then maybe you’ll feel better. You’ll have something that will go on telling the story.”

That very night, Rev. Alfred Ackley wrote out the words, and then composed the melody just as it appears in our hymnals today.

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.

He lives, he lives Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!

Adapted from Music in the Air, Mark Ward Sr. and Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories


  1. Hi, Nicole. Thank you for your article. It has given me so much blessing for this day, right here in Indonesia.
    God bless you, Soli Deo Gloria.

  2. The Lord laid this hymn on my heart before I even got up this morning. I decided to search out the origin and was led to your blog. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and passing it on. Thanks. I loved it.
    Janet, Flint, Texas